‘Sumer is icumen in, Lhude sing cuccu!’ or rather, Summer is here and let the singing begin!
It’s that time of year once more, and opera lovers will be especially keen to get back in the swing at the approaching 2022 Summer Festivals after the restrictions of the past couple of years. Those of us who love to dress up will be looking forward to Garsington Festival Opera’s opening production, John Caird’s take on Monteverdi’s Orfeo, to be premiered on 1 June and where the audience is invited to show up in white or cream in keeping with the show’s aesthetics. Ed Lyon sings the eponymous hero, with Zoe Drummond as Euridice and Diana Montague as the Messenger. The English Concert will be conducted by Laurence Cummings. So get out those snazzy cream tuxes and repurposed wedding meringues – can’t wait.
On the following night, Garsington goes more traditional with a recreation of the classic John Cox production of Così fan Tutte from the Garsington Manor Days; those of us whose favourite Mozart opera this is will be delighted that this one replaces the over-egged 2015 version, and even more so that Tobias Ringborg will be conducting The English Concert and that a snappy revival is guaranteed with the assistance of Bruno Ravella (last year’s Rosenkavalier.)
Earlier in the season, Glyndebourne as usual gets in there first with a similarly contrasting new/old pairing; on 21 May, a chance to hear Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers as the composer intended, with the original French libretto, and on the following night a revival of Michael Grandage’s well liked 2012 production of Le nozze di Figaro. For those not familiar with the former work, it was admired by Mahler and is often regarded as the precursor to Peter Grimes. Fortunately the audience will not be invited to dress in Cornish rags for this one.
The two Granges are next up, with Grange Park Opera at West Horsley bringing us Janáček’s The Excursions of Mr Brouček on 9 June, directed by David Pountney and with an impressive cast including Peter Hoare, Andrew Shore and Clive Bayley. They follow this with Ponchielli’s La Gioconda on 11 June, which stars Joseph Calleja, Amanda Echalaz and Ruxandra Donose, names sure to whet the appetite for this one, directed by Stephen Medcalf and conducted by Stephen Barlow. Set in Venice and the epitome of Grand Opera, La Gioconda’s popularity briefly exceeded that of Verdi’s operas, with apparently not a dry eye in La Scala.
The magnificent house and gardens at The Grange Festival are next home to Verdi’s Macbeth, the first night on 9 June and starring Judith Howarth as Lady Macbeth and the Albanian baritone Gezim Myshketa in the title role. Verdi described Shakespeare’s Macbeth as “one of mankind’s greatest creations” and this production, by Maxine Braham and conducted by Francesco Cilluffo, promises much.
“…get out those snazzy cream tuxes and repurposed wedding meringues…”
In complete contrast, on the following night, 10 June, the Festival brings an exciting chance to hear Handel’s Tamerlano, with Paul Nilon in one of the composer’s great tenor roles, that of Bajazet. Handel wrote Tamerlano in the same year as he composed Giulio Cesare and Rodelinda, and it vies with them as one of his most significant works. The same production team which scored such a success with Belshazzar teams up with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra conducted by Robert Howarth in what is sure to be a festival highlight.
Rounding off the early part of June, Glyndebourne offers its first new version of La bohème for over 20 years, with a young cast directed by Floris Visser and conducted by Jordan de Souza. Unusually for this opera, there are a decent number of seats still available.
Three very different operas continue the June openings, the 18th with Garsington bringing its new production of Rusalka, originally scheduled for 2020 and starring Natalya Romaniw in the title role, one she was surely born to sing. Directed by Jack Furness with designs by Tom Piper, it’s conducted by Douglas Boyd with the Philharmonia Orchestra. Next day, Grange Park Opera opens its new Otello, with an impressive production and casting roster; directed by David Alden and conducted by Gianluca Marcianò, it stars house favourite Simon Keenlyside as Iago, with Elizabeth Llewellyn as Desdemona and Gwyn Hughes Jones in the title role. The Grange Festival brings the month’s premieres to a close with Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Yeomen of the Guard, with the first night on the 26th. The production is by Christopher Luscombe, whose Falstaff was much loved here, and conducted by John Andrews.
July brings half a dozen first nights, led by Glyndebourne with a new production of Handel’s Alcina on the 2nd, which the house promises will have “style and sumptuous excess” in Francesco Micheli’s production. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment will be conducted by Jonathan Cohen, and the cast is an impressive one, with even the smaller roles of Oberto and Oronte cast from strength, with Rowan Pierce and Stuart Jackson respectively. Later in the month there’s a revival of Donizetti’s “most Mozartean” opera, Don Pasquale, in Mariame Clément’s engaging 2011 production, and the Glyndebourne Festival ends in August with the first night of the Poulenc Double Bill of La voix humaine and Les mamelles de Tirésias. Directed by Laurent Pelly and conducted by Robin Ticciati, the cast is led by Stéphanie d’Oustrac as Elle.
The finale to Grange Park’s season is a ‘free staging’ of Wagner’s Der Fliegende Holländer with a top flight cast headed by Bryn Terfel’s Dutchman, with Rachel Nicholls as Senta and Nicky Spence as Erik. Anthony Negus conducts two performances on 14 and 16 July, and there are a few tickets remaining for what promises to be a major event in the festival calendar.
Garsington Opera brings its season to a close with two productions, firstly a revival on 2 July of Louisa Muller’s award-winning production of Britten’s The Turn of the Screw with Robert Murray as the Prologue and Peter Quint, and Mark Wigglesworth making his house debut in the pit. Finally, we have a community opera, Dalia with its first night on the 28th. Roxanna Panufnik’s composition has a libretto by Jessica Duchen and was commissioned by Garsington Opera to engage local participants of all ages and diverse backgrounds. The cast of 180 performers will tell the story of a 12 year old girl who arrives in Britain as a refugee from Syria, and it promises a fascinating conclusion to an exceptional season.